The first round of the NCAA men's basketball tournament -- known to almost everybody as March Madness - is underway as we speak across the country.
Estimates show up to 10 billion -- with a b -- dollars will be bet on the games, both legally and … well, otherwise.
Art Manteris is vice president of race and sportsbook for Station Casinos. He said the tournament has continued the trend of more people coming in to bet more money on sports.
"Interest levels are high, handle levels are high -- folks are continuing to visit Las Vegas," he said.
The Super Bowl is the biggest sporting event for the sports books, but March Madness usually comes in second. Manteris said there are several reasons why the tournament gets so much attention for betters.
First is the format for the tournament.
"That do-or-die atmosphere in every game is exciting," he said.
As UCLA already found out, a storied history helps very little against a young and hungry team. As Manteris said, "Anybody can get knocked off anytime."
The second reason is simple: everyone has a team they're rooting for or against, whether it's their alma mater, their hometown team or their favorite team's rival -- people are interested.
A third reason is that some bettors know a lot more about a small school than the bookmakers do, making it interesting for sportsbook operators.
"It is equally difficult for the handicappers to match up these programs against one another as it is the bookmakers, and that adds to the interest & excitement from a betting standpoint certainly," he said.
And finally, there is the Cinderella factor. It seems every year there is a middle of the pack team that surprises everyone.
"I’m expecting somebody to come out of the middle of the pack, somebody like a Nevada, who surprises everybody and scores a couple of big upsets," Manteris.
Nevada is set to play the University of Texas Friday afternoon. Manteris said they are evenly matched and it is the game he is most looking forward to seeing.
While there is a chance that the Wolfpack might make a run in the tournament, it is unlikely that they'll win the whole thing. Manteris said his team had them at 150 to 1 to win it all.
For the tournament champion, he has Villanova.
"I think they are really well-disciplined, well-coached team," he said. "They have the talent and the experience in big games to go along way."
Art Manteris, vice president of race and sportsbook, Station Casinos
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